Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ashley Jolin - London, England

Ashley is a senior at the University of Utah studying English and Political Science. She is currently participating in the faculty-led British Studies in London study abroad program.

This summer I have been granted the opportunity to travel to England to study at Regents College, located right in Regents Park—a beautiful park in London. What has been unique about this experience is this specific program’s unique ability to unite the classroom with explorations around London. Our class is focusing mainly on the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers from the early twentieth century. My favorite experience by far would be when my class embarked on a journey to Cambridge to explore the colleges and area.

My group’s first assignment was to meet at the Kings Cross Station. This station has become famous due to the Harry Potter franchise, and it is also a great station for traveling, whether by the metro or by train. From Regents Park, I left with a few classmates to walk to the nearby Baker Street station, where we took the metro. Even though I have been on numerous other underground systems before, I find that with every new one I go to, especially in a foreign country, I have to relearn everything. However, even more important than that, I have to orient myself to which stations are near which landmarks. Luckily, on this walkabout, I already had instructions on how to get from point A to point B, and I would have my professors and several tour guides take us the rest of the way.

While waiting for our main tour guide to meet up with the class (he focused on architecture, history, and connections to the Bloomsbury group on all his tours), I just had to find Platform 9 ¾. And I did!

I went to Hogwarts and everything. Well, not really. Nevertheless, Regents College is just as magical, so I don’t feel too ripped off.

When our tour guide eventually arrived, we departed from Kings Cross for Cambridge! And what a beautiful train ride it was. On both sides, there was an almost empty, rolling countryside that rendered me breathless. However, as I was pleasantly distracted by the surroundings, I was equally as shocked to feel a lot of pressure on my ears as we passed underneath tunnels! Everyone around me was shocked as well, and we laughed.

When we finally alighted from the train, we began our walk into the area of Cambridge. It refreshingly did not contain the pedestrian congestion of London, especially as the students of Cambridge were undergoing their exam period. On all sides were numerous shops and restaurants. We didn’t enter any of them, but we did enter several colleges, where our tour guide gave us a history on the founders and famous individuals that had gone to the various colleges.

My favorite college to visit was Kings College of Cambridge because of its unique design and large amount of history. What made it especially unique was the Kings College Cathedral. Within was not only the cathedral, but a detailed background of who had come in the past, along with many ancient relics. It had candles for people to purchase and light and many descriptions of how the cathedral came to be.

It was special to walk through these schools and realize that numerous famous people had walked along the same path and within the same building. One could almost imagine what it was like to live back in earlier centuries. It is so lush and green here (generally the opposite of Utah), and the buildings are weathered, yet they beautifully endure.

After we had walked through several schools, we stopped for a lunch break. Along the road where we stopped were numerous stands set up for almost everything: clothes, British tourist memorabilia, fresh produce, jewelry, and even items imported from other countries. I purchased a nice smoothie and proceeded to explore the rest of the area. It was more modern than the other areas we had gone through, which meant it was more congested and more attuned to the shoppers than the casual passerby. There was a restaurant on every corner. I also eventually found my first English mall, which was similar to the malls in the U.S., except what they sold was very unique to England. I found, for example, a store that sold bars that looked like soap, but actually operated as shampoo and conditioner and could be used many times. 

After wandering for a while, the group reconvened and we finished off our tour. Highlights of the remainder of my tour included seeing multiple versions of the Bible that led up to the King James Bible being created, along with descriptions of who worked with whom in the process. Finally, we concluded by seeing the Women’s College of Cambridge, where our guide amply told us details of who founded it and also how the architecture and design of the building was made to exude femininity. 

Soon we boarded the train once more to return home late in the evening after a good day’s walk and journey.

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